So I've tried to do it myself, and somehow the trip to the meat counter always discourages me. Looking at all those sad packages of chickens and cows, I just feel terrible buying them even if they are for the good of my own animals and even though I know that cans of dog food are the same stuff, only more processed.
A successful trip to the dumpster solves that whole moral dilemma. What every dumpster-diver knows, and many NPR listeners now know, is that expiration dates are determined based not on safety, but on appearance.
The date at which something becomes unsafe to consume is significantly later than the date at which it starts to look slightly past its prime, with the result that we throw away nearly 40% of our food in the U.S.--a large percentage of which is food that gets thrown away in stores. That's in the vicinity of 55 million metric tons or $165 billion worth of food.
When I lived in Portland, I ate a lot of food from the dumpster and my diet was varied, tasty, and high-quality. My dumpster diet plan consisted of things that I would never have thought of purchasing in the store because they were unusual (Japanese frozen custard), seemed frivolous (Wasabi peas) or were out of my budget (organic sundried tomatoes). Lamar found that he loved Southwest-style chicken salad, lettuce and all, which we would never have discovered had we not found them, fresh and in abundance, in the trash.
My kitchen was filled with orchids, and a few of those orchids I liberated from the dumpster in 2003 are still blooming in my mom's dining room.
Now that my economic circumstances are different and I live with someone who loves to shop, I still turn the profligate wastefulness of big stores to my pets' advantage, and that of my local animal shelter.
I seldom purchase dry dog food, and my dogs and foster dogs enjoy an amazing variety of foods whose packaging was slightly damaged by rodents or a box cutter.
With our latest score, my dogs are even enjoying those home-cooked meals I always wanted to make for them. One of the things that's so impressed me about my fellow bloggers who cook for their dogs is the quantity of vegetables their dogs consume.
It just so happened that the latest trip to the dumpster yielded about a dozen packages of raw "Asian Stir Fry" veggies. I cooked them up, along with some of the frozen fish that was thrown away in truly staggering quantities, but found that most of those perfect baby carrots and snap peas were rejected by my discerning canines.
Into the Vita-Mix they went, along with a bit of that fish and a dollop of slightly-past-expiration milk.
The result was a yummy doggie smoothie that even my picky canines loved.
I've wanted to write a dumpster post for a while but hesitated because I feared it might make me sound a bit, you know...odd.
But my excitement over making a nutritious, veggie-packed meal from scratch for Fozzie and Lamar, and watching their little tongues lap it up so eagerly, was just too much for me to contain.
I encourage everyone to check out your local Petsmart, Trader Joes, and other stores for the bounty that will otherwise molder in a landfill!